Just back a week or so from the contemporary equivalent of the nineteenth century Grand Tour. A conference, a spot of business, a day or two of holidays, and of course some modest spruiking for the new poetry imprint.
First stop was Paris, where we had hoped The Red Wheelbarrow would stock our books. But the place is up for sale, the owner is going back home. Sad, really, for a charming bookshop with a nostalgic metonym of a name. As it turned out Brian Spence at the Abbey Bookshop in the rue de la Parcheminerie in the 5th is more than happy to carry our books, so we left him with a complete selection. This Aladdin’s cave has been an outlet for Anglophone Commonwealth writers on the left bank since 1989; the books spilling out on the street from an impossibly narrow space in an 18th century townhouse. Thanks for the coffee, Brian.
On to London and a dodgy art pub called The Three Compasses in Dalston (Arsenal territory) where we met up with young Tim Cumming, who read from his new PSP pamphlet Etruscan Miniatures to an enthusiastic crowd of solid drinkers. On the menu you could eat absolutely anything you wanted, as long as it was burgers. Tim is clearly a rising star on the British poetry scene – his latest book The Rapture published by Salt is making satisfactory waves. Our little pamphlet is a shimmering snapshot of a summer holiday in Italy, self-illustrated with six understated watercolours – the felicitous product of a chance encounter on Twitter. Imbibe a lowlight video of his reading over on the Videmus page.
On our last day in London the two Davids at the Poetry Book Society in High Holborn made us more than welcome on a cold, wet summer’s day. We met in their conference room, the long table piled high with unpublished manuscripts submitted to be the next PBS recommendations.
Unfathomable that the Arts Council would withdraw funding from this cherished national institution, famously founded by TS Eliot in 1953. (NB quite a good year that one – DNA discovered by James Watson and the other chap, a second Elizabeth crowned, and the present writer born with the cord around his neck. Report card: would have done better with more oxygen).
Anyway, these days the Poetry Book Society is the UK’s leading poetry retailer, dispatching a chosen volume quarterly to around 3000 faithful subscribers, and maintaining an on-line bookstore of just about every poetry book in print in English, currently around 90,000 volumes. In addition to their “choice” each quarter they also recommend several additional books, a pamphlet and a volume of translations. And then there’s the TS Eliot prize, probably the most coveted award in modern poetry, and recently the subject of some spicy political controversy. Whatever the outcome of that particular debate, it is essential that the PBS survives the UK economic downturn – so get on over there now and buy a subscription.
You will appreciate, then, what a great source of pride it is for us that the PBS has agreed to be the exclusive outlet for Pitt Street Poetry’s offerings in the UK. We left them with copies of Light Pressure and Etruscan Miniatures and to our surprise and joy that lovely old 1983 classic. John Foulcher’s ‘Loch Ard Gorge’ was their poem of the week just the other day. We are supremely confident they will survive and flourish, and look forward to a long and happy partnership.
A milestone. The first book to be published by Pitt Street Poetry is available from today.
Consistent with our plan to publish reprints of classic Australian poetry as well as a selective new list, we are delighted to advise that our initial offering is a reprint of John Foulcher’s first collection Light Pressure, originally published by Angus & Robertson in 1983 at the time Les Murray was the poetry editor at that distinguished Australian firm.
In its day Light Pressure was a national bestseller and reprinted a number of times – as unusual at that time for a poetry book as it is today! Several of the poems in its pages have been widely anthologised and were used for years as set texts for final year English examinations across the country. More importantly, they have become a memorable part of the literary landscape for the baby boomer generation. Despite this, as is so often the case with Australian poetry, the book has been out of print for over 25 years.
Pitt Street Poetry is very pleased to make Light Pressure available once again to a new generation of Australian poetry enthusiasts – in a pocket format and at a very reasonable price. In keeping with our philosophy of using a mix of traditional and contemporary technologies, it is also available for download as an e-book in both the e-pub and mobi formats, which means it can be read on virtually any popular e-book reader, including the Kindle, the iPad (or iPhone) and the Sony reader.
Light Pressure has been reprinted using the latest print-on-demand techniques. So as long as our imprint survives it will never be out of print again. It is the first in what we plan to be an exemplary series of reprints of classic modern Australian poetry.
We welcome suggestions of other hard-to-obtain classic collections which deserve revival in this way.
Watch this space for news of John Foulcher’s forthcoming new collection The Sunset Assumption which will be published by Pitt Street Poetry in July.
O, know’st thou not his looks are my soul’s food?
Pity the dearth that I have pined in,
By longing for that food so long a time.
Didst thou but know the inly touch of love,
Thou wouldst as soon go kindle fire with snow
As seek to quench the fire of love with words.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Perhaps a longwinded way of announcing that the e-book version of John Foulcher’s Light Pressure for Kindle is now available in the emporium.
As regular visitors can readily see, the web site for Pitt Street Poetry has had a substantial makeover in preparation for the launch of our first title next week.
And the shop is up, with just one product, the e-book of John Foulcher’s 1983 classic first volume of poetry Light Pressure. To be frank, it’s there as a test of the shopping technology as much as anything, but don’t let that stop you from buying a copy! The pocket paperback edition of Light Pressure will follow in the next few days, and then a charming pamphlet by London poet Tim Cumming.
And then some new ones…
Well, at a standing-room only presentation ceremony charmingly compered by the prize’s founder, Adrian Wiggins, judge Kate Middleton announced that the 2012 Sydney Poetry Prize was won by performer and poet Skye Loneragan for a poem called ‘I can’t decide (or Rushcutters Bay)’ which you can read for yourself here.
The highly commended poems were ‘Dawn over Diamond Head’ by Brent Clough and ‘Love Poem’ by Adam Aitken.
Read all about it at the Sydney Poetry site. And entries for the 2013 prize are now open!
A dangerous excitement is building contagiously across the inner city tonight as the announcement of the inaugural winner of the Sydney Poetry Prize draws near.
This latest landmark in the ever-accumulating series of awards for poetry in Australia and round the world is the brainchild of Adrian Wiggins, Redfern-based poet and proprietor of the Sydney Poetry website cum virtual meeting place for local poets, poetasters and poetry addicts. The site boasts 586 members, including a raft of well-known names, and an everflowing stream of posts and poems of all shades of quality and style.
The 2012 Sydney Poetry Prize will be awarded to the best poem posted to the Sydney Poetry website in the last 12 months, as judged by Kate Middleton, who enjoys the grand title of official Sydney City Poet.
Pitt Street Poetry is (as usual) humble yet proud to be the principal sponsor of the Sydney Poetry Prize. The more so as our first ever publication is still a few tantalising weeks away.
See you there tonight!